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M Banahan

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Irish for Beginners (Languages for Beginners)
Irish for Beginners (Languages for Beginners)
by Angela Wilkes
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £11.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very so-so, 11 Jun. 2014
This was what I used the first time I approached learning Irish and, whilst it's not a 'bad' book, I've dropped it in favour of a whole lot of other stuff.

These Usborne books are part of a series (I have the German one also) which appear identical in content and illustration apart from the text of the language concerned. They seem to aim at getting you to just about survival-level tourist basics, which works ok in countries where English is definitely a second language if it exists at all.

For an English speaker visiting a country like Italy or Germany you will at least get a nod from the locals at your attempt to speak their language before they decide whether their English is better than your German/Italian/whatever and then switch. So a survival-level command of the language has some use. Also in those countries, an ability to read things like bus and train timetables may be a necessity. And, occasionally, you may in the remoter parts bump into someone with whom you *have* to use your basic skills, at which point this level of language ability becomes highly relevant and not just nice-to-have or a courtesy.

In Ireland, that's not actually very useful. If you use this book to get you started you will indeed be able to use simple phrases, count, tell the time and ask directions and that will earn you a bit of praise and a surprised raised eyebrow if you do bump into anyone who is a native speaker. For general tourism purposes that's of no conceivable use though, as you have to actively hunt out an Irish speaker and it would be a considerable surprise to find anyone in the hospitality industry or even the remote countryside who has more than a few words of the language themselves. The last monolingual Irish speaker is long-gone. To see what I mean, look on youtube for the humorous but accurate short film 'Yu ming is ainm dom'.

Tourist-level Irish is really not a relevant goal. As a quick introduction to Irish this book will do, but there are numerous online resources easily available that are its equal or better.

The main reason for learning Irish is probably going to be a fascination with and a love of the language just for the fun of it. That's not what this book is aimed at. If you work all the way through it and still love the language you will be desperate for more and it will stop at about the point where the language starts to get really interesting!

So for those reasons, three stars only. The book itself is not flawed, but it's probably not what you are looking for unless you specifically want a quick toe dipped in the water and don't really want to go far with it.

The CDs of spoken Irish that this comes with are very handy. YOU CANNOT LEARN IRISH BY READING IT, certainly if you are a native English speaker. It's ESSENTIAL to listen to the sounds and read the written language simultaneously, as the spelling is disastrously misleading until you have learned that English pronunciation rules bear no obvious relationship to Irish, much, much more so than most other European languages. That earned my review at least one and maybe two extra stars.

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